It’s the future, and the whole Y2K phenomenon has sent a number of Union City gangs into a killing frenzy. You play the role of D’Arci, a rookie cop with an eye for trouble and zero tolerance for crap. Gameplay-wise, Urban Chaos is a hybrid of Tomb Raider and Double Dragon – you’ll leap from building to building and slide down cables just as frequently as you bust heads. Missions are somewhat non-linear, with an extra side-story thrown in here and there for good measure. Meeting certain people (or killing them) triggers gameplay events that allow you to progress.
The over-the-shoulder camera reveals some similarities with Eidos’ Lara Croft, but to be honest, the running-and-jumping portion of Urban Chaos is superior to any Tomb Raider game. The environment that serves as your stomping grounds is pretty impressive – you get free run of a working city, complete with traffic, pedestrians, and thug-infested back alleys. Dead leaves and discarded newspapers are spread over the landscape, and dashing through the city sends them sailing airborne and fluttering to the ground. On certain missions, you can hop into unlocked vehicles and go for a joyride, mowing down any fools who manage to get in your way – or you can opt to ram fire hydrants, which festively blast water into the air. The only downside to the mayhem is the thick layer of black fog that obstructs your view at all times, a necessary relic to keep framerates tolerable on the old PlayStation.
While the gameworld looks cool enough, the fighting portion has some problems. The tutorial introduces you to a weak combat system with unresponsive controls. While executing triple-kick combos and special moves is really hard, simply throwing your opponents to the ground and arresting them is dead simple, and there’s never any need to go for the flashy kick boxing. Another annoyance is that when you’re knocked down, it takes a good ten seconds to get back up, and the various hooligans you fight enjoy stomping you while on the ground.
As the game progresses, you can snag shotguns and machine guns from downed enemies, and then the game takes off a bit – popping lead into a bad guy is much easier than going hand-to-hand. But despite the addition of some half-heartedly scripted cut-scenes, the rinse-lather-repeat gameplay gets old rather quickly, and you’ll be wishing for more variety by the tenth mission. While the fighting does have its pros and cons, the really unforgivable mistake is not letting you save anytime and hence forcing you to repeat large chunks of the world until you get it right.
System Requirements: Pentium MMX 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95